Tuesday, June 26, 2018


All of us are in bondage to something or someone, some of us more so than others. Some of us are in bondage to alcohol or other drugs. Others of us are in bondage to other sorts of addictions including being addicted to work and other people. (Oh, how we crave the useless attention and approval of others! But why?) Still others of us are in bondage to mental obsessions and physical compulsions, things that make even our moment-to-moment existence misery. What can we do about all this?

When we get right down to the bottom line all bondage is addiction to self. Yes, addiction to self. Self-obsession, self-absorption, self-centeredness, selfishness. Yes, there may be mental illness as well as physical illness involved as well, but deep down all forms of bondage are bondage to self, that is, to a sense of self that is illusory. We are not a ‘self,’ or those many, many ‘selves’ which are nothing other than mental images. They are not the real person each one of us is. So, what is the answer? We need to
wake up! We need to experience self-release, which is the ending of illusion. Once we see the false as falseand self is the ultimate illusiona whole new world opens up for us.

George S Arundale
Many years ago I read a little booklet penned by George Arundale. I can’t remember the title of the booklet—it was more of a pamphlet—but I do remember something of immense value in it, something has that helped me greatly in my own life, something that I want to share with you now. Of all the bits and tidbits of advice and wisdom I’ve read over many decades, this gem of spiritual wisdom from Arundale is perhaps the best and most useful of them all.

George Arundale wrote of the five stages of true growth—true spiritual growth, that is. The five stages are as follows: discontent, search, escape, discovery, and freedom. Let’s deal with them in turn.

First, discontent. This is the beginning of freedom. You know, there is a phrase ‘divine discontent,’ because discontent can be a most wonderful thing. Without a certain amount of discontent in our lives we would never seek to grow, learn, understand, or escape bondage. The Indian spiritual philosopher J. Krishnamurti had this to say about discontent: 

Only a mind that is in despair can find reality. A mind that is completely discontented can jump into reality, not a mind that is content, not a mind that is respectable, hedged about by beliefs. ... Though painful, it is a marvellous thing to be discontented ... .

Arundale calls discontent, which is the knowledge and recognition of bondage and limitation, an ‘angel-messenger of Light in the midst of all darkness.’ Take the alcoholic, for example. Alcoholics are never really happy. In fact, they live in misery, as do all addicts. Every alcoholic—and the same goes for any addict—seeks to escape an unwanted self. 

Actually, that is a very necessary thing to do, for we all must learn to escape our unwanted selves, that is, all those false and illusory images we have of ourselves that prevent us from seeing things as they really are. The problem with alcoholism and all other forms of addiction and bondage is that drugs and the like are never the answer. Indeed, they increasingly become the problem, and more and more of a problem, until the sufferer either dies or goes mad. That’s true. Don’t doubt it, even for a moment.

The second stage of true growth is search. Discontent, after varying periods of time, results in a search for a way out. A thought comes to mind— ‘There must be a way out!’ There is—always. So, we look for a way out. That may take a long time, although in most cases we make it longer than it need be. We may seek the views of others. We may join a new religion. We may read self-help books galore. I did all of those things in my own search for freedom. None of them really helped me to break free from bondage, but for some glorious reason I never gave up hope. But eventually I gave in—that is, surrendered, let go. Only then was it that a power-not-myself—for self can never change self, as self is forever the problem and never the solution—led me to freedom. Sadly, many people never get to this second stage. They die—discontented.

Discontent alone is not enough. Insight alone never changes us. We must want change—I mean, really want it above all other things—and we must be prepared to go to any length to get it. As Williams James used to say, we will always do whatever is our strongest desire. Search begins with desire. The stronger the desire for escape, the more likely the search will not be in vain.

George S Arundale
The third stage is escape. We exit the prison. We enter into a new world. Arundale called it a ‘garden.’ Lovely imagery. Then, we make a great discovery.

Discovery is the fourth stage. We take possession of our new world and we discover. We learn. We understand. Gone are the old beliefs that only helped to keep us in bondage. Once, we believed. Now, we know and understand. There is a whole world of difference!

The fifth stage of true growth is freedom. Arundale wrote that we need to be very careful here. Sometimes, if we are not ever-vigilant, we will find that we have entered a larger prison. True spiritual growth, he wrote, is often a case of freedom succeeding freedom as we draw nearer to Eternity—‘at least to an Eternity,’ wrote Arundale.

Discontent … search … escape … discovery … freedom. That’s it! In many ways these five words are all you need to know to be able to live a long, happy, and satisfying life. Arundale wrote that these five steps encapsulate a certain spiritual or metaphysical law—the ‘Law of Universal Growth,’ he called it. He also wrote that this law of growth is ‘God’s gift of Time.’ Perhaps, but for many people time is running out. We must act … now!

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2), says the New Testament. Yes, right now! Salvation is all about wholeness and health of mind, body and spirit … and freedom from bondage and limitation of all kinds—in this life. Salvation is all aboutwaking up! It's about self-release. It's about freedom from bondage.

Yes, there is a power-not-oneself that can make all things new. That power, as Norman Vincent Peale has written, is 'a spiritual giant within you, which is always struggling to burst its way out of the prison you have made for it.’ The power can restore you to health and vitality, release you from all bondage, and make your life worth living. The power is your 'real self'that is, the life in you manifesting itself as you ... your very ground of being ... the source and essence of your life, health, strength, and vitality.

May you come to know this power today ... indeed, right now!

Thursday, June 7, 2018


'Meditation is not divorced from our daily living. In the very understanding of our daily living meditation is necessary. That is, to attend completely to what we are doing. When you talk to somebody, the way you walk, the way you think, what you think, to give your attention to that. That is part of meditation.'—J. Krishnamurti.

Here are the names of a couple of people of yesteryear. There will be more than a few readers who will have heard of them, but there will ever so many people who will not have heard of them at all, which is a great pity. The names of the two people are Annie Besant and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Both were incredible women.

Annie Besant
During her lifetime Annie Besant was many things—minister’s wife, atheist, secularist, reformer, Fabian socialist, advocate of women’s rights and socio-political change, author, Theosophist, Co-Mason, orientalist and leader of the movement for Indian home rule. Madame Blavatsky (‘HPB’) was quite a woman as well. She was a Russian occultist, spiritual philosopher and author who co-founded the Theosophical Society in 1875. Besant met HPB in or around 1890—HPB died the very next year—and in August 1890 HPB moved in to Besant’s house in St John’s Wood, London. Anyway, here’s a little anecdote Mrs Besant would tell. She once asked HPB, ‘How shall I meditate?’ HPB is said to have replied, ‘Stick your stamps on straight, my dear.’

Now, for the benefit of those who haven’t posted a letter—remember them?—in some time, or have never posted a letter, HPB is referring to licking (yes, licking) a postage stamp and then neatly but firmly affixing the stamp to the top right hand corner of an envelope. Hence, ‘Stick your stamps on straight.’ Of course, HPB is using an analogy. What she is saying is that, in order to meditate, you must take care to ensure that you perform your daily tasks, no matter how seemingly unimportant or trivial, with proper attention to detail and the effort to do it right.

H P Blavatsky
Note Mrs Besant’s question—‘How shall I meditate?’ She was asking for a method or technique. I hate the words ‘method’ and ‘technique’ as well as the 'how' word. I really do. My use of the word 'how' in the title to this post, implying the supposed need for a method or technique in order to achieve the sought-after end, is intentionally provocative, not to mention a bit mischievous. 

There’s a Zen story that goes like this. A disciple says to the master, ‘I have been four months with you, and you have still given me no method or technique.’ The master says, ‘A method? What on earth would you want a method for?’ The disciple says, ‘To attain inner freedom.’ The master roars with laughter, and then says, ‘You need great skill indeed to set yourself free by means of the trap called a method.’ Yes, I do have a real aversion to all so-called ‘methods’, ‘systems’ and ‘techniques.’ Don’t ask, ‘how’. Just do it! (I think that's not just a slogan but a trademark as well.) True meditation is a choiceless awareness applied it to one’s whole day, indeed one’s whole life. The philosopher and authority on Zen and all things magical and mystical, Alan Watts wrote that meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment’.

Annie Besant 'first day cover'.
Indian Posts & Telegraphs. October 1, 1963.

That, my friends, is what mindfulness is all about—living from moment to moment with awareness and being fully present during each immediate moment. True meditation occurs when there is a directness and an immediacy about your experience of life. All so-called methods, techniques and systems are an artificial construct—a barrier—to your moment-to-moment experience of life. Thousands of people spend a small fortune on courses, lessons and tuition on how to meditate. They recite mantras, affix their eyes upon an object, go into a trance-like state, and so on. The Indian spiritual teacher, international speaker and author Jiddu Krishnamurti was dismissive of all forms of meditation—except one. This is what he had to say about a commonly practised form of concentration meditation known as mantra meditation:

The other method [mantra meditation] gives you a certain word and tells you that if you go on repeating it you will have some extraordinary transcendental experience. This is sheer nonsense. It is a form of self-hypnosis. By repeating Amen or Om or Coca-Cola indefinitely you will obviously have-a certain experience because by repetition the mind becomes quiet. It is a well known phenomenon which has been practised for thousands of years in India---Mantra Yoga it is called. By repetition you can induce the mind to be gentle and soft but it is still a petty, shoddy, little mind. You might as well put a piece of stick you have picked up in the garden on the mantelpiece and give it a flower every day. In a month you will be worshipping it and not to put a flower in front of it will become a sin.

So, what, then, is true meditation? Krishnamurti went on to say:

Meditation demands an astonishingly alert mind; meditation is the understanding of the totality of life in which every form of fragmentation has ceased. Meditation is not control of thought, for when thought is controlled it breeds conflict in the mind, but when you understand the structure and origin of thought, which we have already been into, then thought will not interfere. That very understanding of the structure of thinking is its own discipline which is meditation.

Meditation, which Krishnamurti saw as a lifelong inquiry into what it means to be truly present and aware, occurs when you live in the action of the present moment, as opposed to the so-called present moment itself, for as soon as you say 'the present moment' you are in the past, you are involved in memory, and thus not living in the present moment. One more thing. You can only be said to be living in the present when your mind is free from all ideas of ‘self’. When you have the idea of ‘self’ (that is, of ‘I’ and ‘me’) you are living either in the past or in the future. 

‘Stick your stamps on right, my dear.’ Attend to the small, ordinary things of life with an ‘astonishingly alert mind’. Yes, meditation is in the direct and immediate living of your daily life, from one moment to the next.